By Patrick Pilz, CSB-System International Inc.

A month ago I learned a new word, it means the same in German and in English. I am practicing it right now; you probably are as well. The word is ‘social-distancing’. Schools, events and travel have been canceled, borders and institutions have closed, but life goes on. Jeff Goldblum famously said in Jurassic Park: “Life always finds a way,” and we will and we do. We all find creative ways to deal with this situation, to keep our business afloat and make a life. Our creative thinking and our adaptations to the current situation are probably the largest social experiment we will ever do. Some of these changes will be permanent, and we may not be reversible. Here are 6 things I believe will change.

From take-out to bring-out
Right now restaurants are closing all over the world. The only way to get food over the ‘social-distancing’ is through drive-through windows, popularized in California in the ‘50s. When the Governor of my state of California says that the state better prepared for disasters, he is not kidding. Take-out right now is still allowed, but lines waiting for your food orders will not make sense. Over the next couple of months, I think restaurants need to adapt to bringing the food to your cars instead of people waiting. Restaurant consumption, and eating food away from home, will take a drastic hit and take years to recover.

Home food delivery
Home food delivery will increase; it already has. It will come in different forms starting from prepared foods to regular grocery purchases. Food processors may need to embrace direct-to-consumer sales via B2C websites and direct delivery to the households. This, of course, has been in place, but now we see an age group, the so-called high-risk people age 65 and up, to use this more, some of them for the first time. They learn the possibilities and will probably stick with them.

Group Collaboration Software replaces travel
In-person events and meetings have been largely canceled. This is, of course, a knee-jerk reaction. We need to adapt as well as we can, and will probably meet and work together online more than ever. There are of course the old legacy screen sharing platforms like GoToMeeting, TeamViewer, Zoom and Skype, but most of them are overtaxed right now. The younger generation has already moved on from Skype (find them on Snapchat or Discord), and we will move to more collaborative online platforms like Slack or MS-Teams. While we have used these technologies for quite some time, we are finding new ways to use them to replace the meetings we use to have face-to-face.

The end of trade shows as we know them
I believe that the Coronavirus is the death of the large trade shows and industry gatherings. The first blow to trade shows happened on 9/11/2001. People avoided travel for quite some time following the events and found alternate ways to inform themselves. The largest food-processing event at the time in North America (remember the ‘World Wide Food Expo’ in Chicago?) died a slow death shortly thereafter, while attendance at pretty much every trade show and conference declined slowly and surely. Meat association events that used to draw 1,500 people may draw 300 today. The slow death of these formats is now going to be accelerated.

Online Education
My children are at home right now. School has been canceled for the next 4 weeks, and classes at UC San Diego have been moved online — even exams are now online. Some schools are well prepared for this, as lots of colleges have been podcasting every lesson to their students for the past few years. Google Classroom has been in use in all classes since 6th grade with Chromebooks for every child. The teaching aspect in K-12 education is now catching up, but my 9th grader can voluntarily do classes online via Kahn Academy. Of course, there are some events that require school facilities such as sports, performing arts and other competitions, but online science education will be better for our children, and we may not want to go back to the variability of teaching quality at our schools. By the way, we started at the last user conferences to record the sessions and provided webcasts to all attendees.

Life and work
For now, a lot of us have been designated to work from home. We are making our home offices more practical, will probably invest in some good equipment such as headsets, printers, networking, wireless infrastructure, etc. and adjust our life rhythm. We will still work 8 hours a day, but probably not like when we are in the office, where we work 4 hours, have a lunch break, go back to work and then go home. We are home. We may do laundry during lunch and may take other breaks. We may work voluntarily on weekends, because we are home, and our life and work are starting to converge. This may increase our availability, accessibility and productivity, providing benefits for employees, employers, customers – pretty much all stakeholders – which we like to extend beyond this outbreak.

Crisis and Opportunity is the same word in Chinese. Our current situation is like a turbo charger for innovation and the way of life and work will change, and in a lot of areas for the better. Please email me or contact me on Linkedin, if you have other ideas that you believe will permanently alter our way of life and work.